Double Feature: Work It (2020) & The Prom (2020)

Today’s double feature is a rather musical pairing and both are Netflix films released in 2020. The first is a dance film called Work It and the second is the recently released musical The Prom. Let’s check it out!

Work It (2020)

Director: Laura Terruso

Cast: Sabrina Carpenter, Jordan Fisher, Kalliane Bremault, Briana Andrade-Gomes, Liza Koshy, Julliard Pembroke, Michelle Buteau, Drew Ray Tanner, Sabrina Snieckus

When Quinn Ackerman’s admission to the college of her dreams depends on her performance at a dance competition, she forms a ragtag group of dancers to take on the best squad in school…now she just needs to learn how to dance. – IMDB

Work It is mostly a dance film and yet its a comedy about a girl with perfect grades who realize that its not enough to get into college and as an extracurricular decides to go to her best friend’s dance troupe which doesn’t take her so she tries to put together her own group of misfits. The group itself has all different styles of dance and yet the biggest problem is that she can’t dance and needs to start from zero and its zero like finding her music flow and rhythm. That is the comedy part.

With any of these films, you need to throw in a little romantic flare and that’s when Quinn and Jake come into a picture: a girl who can’t dance and a renowned dancer that disappeared off the dance competition circuit after an injury. Its hard to talk about Work It without criticizing its issues but then that is usually the case for dance films, much like Step Up franchise, and yet, Step Up is one that I can see the flaws and still like it for exactly what it is. The same applies for Work It, except it suffers from coming later than a wave of better executed films. What is good is that it adds in those comedy moments and changes the vibe of the film a little. Simply put, its a lot of the same when it comes to these sorts of movies and it is fairly predictable especially when there doesn’t even feel like there’s a lot of dance sequences.

Other predictability, the execution is fairly unbalanced. The movie seems to want to do everything so its structured to go through the motions. Starting off with the characters and then what they need to achieve, the tear in the friendship and struggle to get their act together and then the big win at the end. Other than that, it adds in a little unpolished romantic flare here and then some bad dancing from Sabrina Carpenter’s character to her finally getting it. While the cast itself does what they need to do whether its Sabrina Carpenter or Jordan Fisher and even the sassy other team’s leader Julliard Pembroke, played by Keiynan Lonsdale or the best friend Jasmine, played by Liza Koshy, the script itself does have some lacking moments as well.

Work It is one of those films that is really for the soundtrack or some light entertainment. Its not meant to be reviewed in depth. Its a simple movie and a familiar sort of dance movie storyline. While I did have some cons more than pros, I do enjoy dance films so this one is just some harmless entertainment that you can leave for a rainy day keeping in mind that you do enjoy dance movies. If you don’t, then this one won’t do anything for you.

The Prom (2020)

Director: Ryan Murphy

Cast: Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Kerry Washington, Keegan-Michael Key, Jo Ellen Pellman, Ariana DeBose, Andrew Rannells

A troupe of hilariously self-obsessed theater stars swarm into a small conservative Indiana town in support of a high school girl who wants to take her girlfriend to the prom. – IMDB

Looking at the cast, The Prom is absolutely star studded with some big names and most of them, I do quite enjoy so the movie popped onto Netflix and I didn’t know about it in advance but I saw those stars, that it was a musical and it was an immediate play. Adapted from a Broadway musical of the same name, The Prom does come at a good time when the world is talking about LGBT rights a lot. I haven’t heard of The Prom before but at first glance, The Prom’s story almost feels like Footloose where that one is about not being allowed to dance, The Prom is about the PTA trying to stop one of the students to take her girlfriend to prom and wanting to cancel prom altogether. In the face of this serious matter, a bunch of theater stars comes in to try to fight for a cause to help themselves get back some positive press. Its hard to determine whether the journey for the film is for the girl, Emma or the troupe as both of them do have their moments of growth.

Being a fan of musical films, The Prom is the type of movie that I’d like and it is quite enjoyable. Most of the stars here have been part of musicals before so the talent is there. Perhaps what stands out more is some of the awkward moments between characters. It definitely is scripted to be awkward and was delivered pretty well. The Prom has a decent storyline even if sometimes the events feel slightly disjointed like its being pushed along so its forced to progress faster. What makes this film shine is truly some of the stars here delivering some great performances. Other than Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman, they are joined by Andrew Rannells as this performer that’s wants to hang with them and adds comedy. There’s a lot of characters so its hard to say whether anyone had enough time for their characters to develop enough but Kerry Washington’s parent character against the whole prom situation and Keegan-Michael Key’s principal character were also done really well. In all honestly, the younger characters also did fairly well and Emma’s character is a much quieter one despite the unfair situation that she’s part of.

The Prom is an alright musical. Everyone does a good job and the story is pretty nice as well as how the characters develop throughout. It is structured well and the scenes are executed pretty good as well. Where I have issues with it is that it feels like it lacks the uniqueness to make it more memorable. None of the songs stuck in my head even if they were rather fun to listen and watch the choreography/performances in the moment. I know that I had fun watching it the first time and yet, it doesn’t make me want to go back to watch it a second time and yet, I can’t quite pinpoint where its lacking as everything seems to done good, just put together, it seems to not quite get that excitement of a musical for myself.

Double Feature: A Simple Favor (2018) & Dumplin’ (2018)

Next double feature is here and we’re doing a 2018 film double feature. Honestly, it was fairly unplanned since this one was more for the focused on the female cast on hand. The first is a dark comedy thriller A Simple Favor and the second is Netflix coming of age comedy Dumplin’.

Let’s check it out!

A Simple Favor (2018)

Director: Paul Feig

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Ian Ho, Joshua Satine, Henry Golding, Dustin Milligan

Stephanie is a single mother with a parenting vlog who befriends Emily, a secretive upper-class woman who has a child at the same elementary school. When Emily goes missing, Stephanie takes it upon herself to investigate. – IMDB

* Originally published on Movies and Tea – Friday Film Club*

Based on the 2017 novel of the same name by Darcey Bell, A Simple Favor is a dark comedy thriller about a mommy vlogger who befriends one of the other moms who ends up mysteriously disappearing after asking her to pick her son after school. Using the power of her followers and as a form of journal, she tries to track down her friend and eventually find out what happened to her. 

Starring in the main roles as the mommy vlogger Stephanie is Anna Kendrick while her elegant friend Emily is portrayed by Blake Lively. A lot of the charm of the movie is how it is executed as a fluctuation between the past interactions and the context of their friendship and how their conversations expose their characters, especially that of Stephanie, both having elements that break out of how they are perceived by the people around them while contrasting it with the present search after her disappearance and eventual death which leads to Stephanie trying to figure out what happened while being caught up in it herself. 

Anna Kendrick has always been quite a flexible character as she started off in Pitch Perfect and takes up comedic roles like Mr. Right and now, this one takes it one step further as she catches those dark comedy points really great especially in her dialogue which brings in a bit of embarrassment and unexpected elements that brings out some laugh but still keeps the movie fairly suspenseful. Blake Lively’s Emily is a blunt character, not the conventional polite mom but a powerhouse elegant girl who says what comes to mind and feels secretive but also manipulative which makes her disappearance feel not unexpected but rather more of a mystery of what secrets she is hiding. 

A Simple Favor has the same feeling and tells the kind of story like Gone Girl but perhaps a different angle as it takes a more dark comedy angle while the other is more of a pure thriller. The twist and the story/script all work pretty well as it watches a character feel like she is a naive small town girl just trying to do the best mom she can be even though in reality, both female characters are really  not as perfect as they seem to be whether in their perspectives or the people around them. Not to mention that it has a lovely soundtrack. Its not exactly very complex but it has a good balance between having a decent twist and mystery to fulfill the thriller element while also delivering some great dark comedy. A Simple Favor is simply entertaining and fun. 

Dumplin’ (2018)

Director: Anne Fletcher

Cast: Danielle Macdonald, Jennifer Aniston, Odeya Rush, Maddie Baillio, Bex Taylor-Klaus, Luke Benward, Harold Perrineau, Ginger Minj, Sam Pancake, Hilliary Begley

Willowdean (‘Dumplin’), the plus-size teenage daughter of a former beauty queen, signs up for her mom’s Miss Teen Bluebonnet pageant as a protest that escalates when other contestants follow her footsteps, revolutionizing the pageant and their small Texas town. – IMDB

A true Netflix gem is what Dumplin’ is. I can’t say how many times that I’ve watched it and rewatched this film at this point. There’s so much to love from the coming of age story to hitting those comedy points really well and even giving me that extra push from the Hideaway location with Dolly Parton drag queens that made me go and watch Rupaul’s Drag Queen because I’ve never seen it before. Of course, that’s besides the point. On that note, I don’t listen to Dolly Parton a lot nor am I mega knowledgeable about her music except for the really popular ones but I love the Dolly Parton soundtrack that it uses. Even though I don’t know about her sayings either, the movie puts a lot of focus on all the positive message that she delivers which becomes an encouraging element for Willowdean’s character.

What makes coming of age films great are usually the different types of relationships including that with facing up to yourself. For Willowdean (Danielle Macdonald), the story is from her point of view as she deals with a feeling that her mother (Jennifer Aniston) is ashamed of her body because she prides herself on being the 1991 Miss Teen Bluebonnet and her beauty pageant which makes her make fun of the pageant girls. At the same time, it brings in the element of friendship as she ends up having an argument with her best friend Ellen (Odeya Rush) that leads her to making friends with 2 other girls, Hannah (Bex Taylor-Klaus) and Millie (Maddie Baillio) that are not the typical pageant girls in the heart of breaking the norm. Its all about finding the courage and doing the impossible for them as they realize all the work that goes into participating in the pageant and the shining points of the pageant as they describe is a “team sport”. Then there’s the extension to finding courage and committing to being different much like Willowdean’s Aunt Lucy taught her and the friends she makes at the Hideaway help her remember. The whole Hideaway segments and the pageant segments are some of the best parts of the film.

If there was one thing that seemed to not fit so well was probably the love interest character that didn’t seem to be needed. It was there to emphasize her discomfort with herself and that she had to come to terms with herself. At the same time, while the character of Bo (Luke Benward) was okay overall, he didn’t exactly add a whole lot to the film itself. The movie was much more about the girls and ladies than anything else. Plus, its a different sort of movie that shows this pageant being filled with girls who don’t have it out for each other but are actually rather nice about the whole thing.

Double Feature: Enola Holmes (2020) & Robin Hood (2018)

Next up for double feature is a pairing of Netflix film Enola Holmes and 2018’s live action retelling of Robin Hood. Two movies that I feel pair up rather well together. Let’s check it out!

Enola Holmes (2020)

Director: Harry Bradbeer

Cast: Millie Bobby Brown, Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin, Louis Partridge, Helena Bonham Carter, Burn Gorman, Adeel Akhtar, Susan Wokoma, Frances de la Tour

When Enola Holmes-Sherlock’s teen sister-discovers her mother missing, she sets off to find her, becoming a super-sleuth in her own right as she outwits her famous brother and unravels a dangerous conspiracy around a mysterious young Lord. – IMDB

*Originally published in Movies and Tea – Friday Film Club*

Based on the first book of the series of the same name by Nancy Springer, Enola Holmes tells the story of the teenage sister of an already famous Sherlock Holmes who follows the clues to find her disappeared mother. Using her wits to be evade her older brothers’ tracking in order to put her into a finishing school, she escapes to end up helping a young Viscount Tewkesbury escape from a man sent searching for him with murder intentions. Despite having part ways in London initially, they end up meeting again when she realizes that she needs to help him being murdered and tracks him down.

Enola Holmes are originally set for a theatrical release however due to the pandemic, they sold the distribution rights to Netflix which is how this movie has graced it presence on the streaming circuit. This is one charming movie that boasts a brilliant cast with Millie Bobby Brown playing the young female detective Enola Holmes, Helena Bonham Carter player her disappeared mother and her brothers Sherlock and Mycroft being played by Henry Cavill and Sam Claflin respectively and finally, the young Viscount Tewkesbury is played by Louis Partridge and his murderer by Burn Gorman. Its a very full cast with many names that I haven’t even started mentioning yet. The cast are remarkable in each of their roles especially with Millie Bobby Brown who delivers her best role to date.

One of the best elements of Enola Holmes is due to a script that constantly breaks the fourth wall which makes it very engaging and fun as the character Enola would constantly be reacting at the camera even sometimes for one quick moment to show her true reactions. It makes it all the more charming and entertaining. At the same time, her whole chemistry with Louis Partridge’s Tewkesbury while inching towards a little young romance hints throughout did play very well off each other. Of course, Henry Cavill needs to get a mention especially since Sherlock Holmes has been portrayed by so many different actors at this point over the past decade and he definitely holds up the role fairly well especially as he is supposed to be an older Holmes who is starting to show his more emotional side which is a good different.

Overall, Enola Holmes blends the world of Sherlock Holmes with a young heroine detective story. It has a unique little twist and the execution of the film works in a fun and feel-good way that gives its a lot of charm and well worth a watch.

Robin Hood (2018)

Director: Otto Bathurst

Cast: Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx, Ben Mendelsohn, Eve Hewson, Jamie Dornan, Tim Minchin, Paul Anderson

A war-hardened Crusader and his Moorish commander mount an audacious revolt against the corrupt English crown. – IMDB

I’ve lost count of how much retellings and adaptations we’ve had of Robin Hood already whether its TV series or movies. I sometimes hop in and out of the TV and films and they all feel along the same line of thought, but then it all makes sense since its been a story that’s been around for a long time considering Disney’s animated classic was released in 1973. With that said, I was fairly indifferent about this one. On one hand, there’s a lot of familiar faces in cast such as Jamie Foxx, Taron Egerton, Ben Mendelsohn, Jamie Dornan, even though they all happen to actors that I’ve seen but never watch a lot their movies.

Robin Hood has some alright action sequences. The cast itself isn’t really the problem although the characters themselves are a little disjointed. I can’t say that after so many Robin Hood’s that Taron Egerton brought anything different especially since he still has more of a boyish feeling which doesn’t quite match the character of Robin of Loxley for this story. However, one of the bigger issues probably dials down to execution and pacing. Running at almost 2 hours long, the movie spends a lot of time in slow-paced segments that make this feel a little boring to be honest. It actually stretches out this familiar tale and adding some unnecessary changes that doesn’t seem to add too much.

Perhaps the biggest issue is that this film feels like its fairly forgettable. There’s nothing that makes it better than previous versions released. Taron Egerton’s Robin of Loxley feels fairly disjointed. Sure, Jamie Foxx’s character delivers a decent performance with some good dialogue. There’s definitely some issues with this latest version of Robin Hood and the similarities made me think about how other movies might have done it better.

Double Feature: Operation Santa Drop (2020) & Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020)

I’m super behind on these Christmas reviews going out so I figured that I’d double down to get all of them out. Back to the double feature reviews, we’re in for a Netflix Original double feature for holiday films.

Hope everyone’s having a Merry Christmas Eve and lets check out these two movies!

Operation Santa Drop (2020)

Director: Martin Wood

Cast: Kat Graham, Alexander Ludwig, Trezzo Mahoro, Bethany Brown, Rohan Campbell, Virginia Madsen, Jeff Joseph, Janet Kidder

Congressional aide Erica (Kat Graham) forgoes family Christmas to travel at her boss’s behest. At a beachside Air Force base, she clashes with Capt. Andrew Jantz (Alexander Ludwig), who knows her assignment is finding reasons to defund the facility. – IMDB

Operation Christmas Drop takes a tropic setting for Christmas, much like last year’s Holiday in the Wild (review). In this case, its about the Air Force base doing a good deed on their own means but the facility being on the verge of possibility defunded because of it. Its pretty much a holiday romantic comedy with a bigger cause at heart which has all the right intentions however also feels very familiar. Of course, if these types of movies are your cup of tea, its definitely going to work other than perhaps the computer animated gecko sitting on the wall that looks the most out of place. In the current state of pandemic across the world, it perhaps helps that this sort of destination is one to look forward to in the future when things get back to some form of normal.

Its hard to criticize Operation Christmas Drop. In many ways, the meaning of Christmas and the good deed makes this a rather feel good movie. However, putting it in the context of the romance at heart, it feels a little light. The chemistry is on and off between the two main leads and yet, the whole exploring the place and mostly the character Erica, played by Kat Graham does change her heart as she would have to for to movie to have to fight against her boss, the congresswoman played by Virginia Madsen. The charm is really in how it portrays the villagers and the people in it, plus the setting gives it a lot of extra points. The whole Christmas Drop scene might be the most fun to watch.

Operation Christmas Drop is an alright movie. Its pretty harmless overall and has a decent story to tell especially since its based on a true situation which it makes a point to highlight at the end of the movie. Nameless heroes are the best ones to talk about and possibly the most heartwarming stories. Its very fitting for a holiday film, even if it doesn’t hit all the notes for the romantic arc.

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020)

Director (and writer): David E. Talbert

Cast: Forest Whitaker, Keegan-Michael Key, Hugh Bonneville, Anika Noni Rose, Madalen Mills, Phylicia Rashad, Ricky Martin, Justin Cornwell, Sharon Rose, Lisa Davina Phillip, Kieron L. Dyer

An imaginary world comes to life in a holiday tale of an eccentric toymaker, his adventurous granddaughter, and a magical invention that has the power to change their lives forever. – IMDB

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is a musical fantasy film. I’m all about Netflix putting together these musical films. I also caught up with The Prom shortly after this one but that’s for another post. While its not exactly a Christmas movie in the conventional way, it is one that’s full of magic: the magic of creation especially in terms of toy creations. Its about family and making peace. There’s a bit of silliness to the whole situation as well and some imagination elements but its a fun journey to say the least.

There’s a lot to love about Jingle Jangle even if there are some small pacing issues perhaps and the story is rather predictable in where it will go. However, the musical numbers are really fun and I’m also a sucker for those big musical scenes which almost feels like flash mob. The music itself is good as well. The cast performs it very well. There are some memorable songs in the mix.

Perhaps one of the things that also stand out is that the cast is exceptional, at least to me. Forest Whitaker takes on the main inventor role Jeronicus that has lost his magic after his creation ideas are stolen from his apprentice and at the verge of losing his store that has now turned into a pawnshop, his granddaughter is sent over with the same type of inventive bone as him to warm his life up and also bring back his magic. With a new young boy that wants to be his apprentice in the mix and the postal service lady that wants to win his heart in the most entertaining way and so much personality, it also brings into the mix of Keegan-Michael Key as Gustafson, his apprentice that was actually mislead by Jeronicus’ invention Don Juan Diego who has so much of a human conscious that it doesn’t want to be replicated. Don Juan Diego is animated and voiced by Ricky Martin who does a fantastic job as well. Not to mention that the young stars including the main lead of the granddaughter Journey by Madalen Mills.

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is really quite the fun spectacle. The magic and the music and the characters all are quite the charming. Not to mention the setting of the village is nice as well as the toy design that is in the making turns out to be this uber cute Wall-E-esque looking robot. There may be some flaws with this and it has some overacting here and there but then musicals always seem to have that sort of feeling to it and its those moments that blend well with the musical numbers and boosting the story elements.

The Christmas Chronicles 2 (2020)

The Christmas Chronicles 2 (2020)

Director (and co-writer): Chris Columbus

Cast: Kurt Russell, Goldie Hawn, Darby Camp, Julian Dennison, Jahzir Bruno, Tyrese Gibson, Judah Lewis, Kimberly Williams-Paisley

Kate Pierce, now a cynical teen, is unexpectedly reunited with Santa Claus when a mysterious troublemaker threatens to cancel Christmas – forever. – IMDB

We’re big fans of The Christmas Chronicles (review) so suffice to say, we were looking forward to the sequel. The sequel takes place a year after the events of the first film again during Christmas season where the family is on vacation in the south with the mother’s new boyfriend and son. There’s resistance to both the new relationship and where they are by Kate who ends up scheming a way to escape but ends up falling into a trap that takes her to North Pole.

The Christmas Chronicles 2 is a bit of mixed feelings. On one hand, there are some very fun bits and the characters including the elves and exploring Santa’s Village plus Kurt Russell as Santa Claus and Goldie Hawn having a bigger part this time around as Mrs. Claus are all very entertaining bits for the movie. The animation of the elves and how they are designed is so cute that I went trying to see if somewhere sells these plush but with no luck.

Along with the pros, there were some cons. Most of it had to do with the plot and the whole revenge bit from Belsnickel, an elf that gets punished for doing misdeeds after Santa doesn’t pay attention to him that he act out and gets turned into human. The main issue is the Belsnickel character that is rather an annoying character design and feels a little disjointed in general. Perhaps, its supposed to fit with a child lashing out and being bratty but the execution just felt lacking on his development. The character is more of an issue in the first half and does feel better as it goes further although his character still just feels like the means of creating issues for Santa and his village.

Playing with tech a little as it moves through time travel a little and morphing through locations, The Christmas Chronicles 2 still had the adventure bit locked down and the young characters finally reaching Santa’s village as a means for Belsnickel turns out to get them involved which also brings on some fun characters and adventures. Starting with cameo characters, Tyrese Gibson plays the mom’s boyfriend which is pretty fun and the first time that I’ve seen him out of the Fast and Furious franchise. With Judah Lewis’s brother falling into a smaller role, Kate is paired with a tag along of the boyfriend’s son, Jack played Jahzir Bruno who ends up bonding the two but giving him a journey as he starts fighting his wide array of fears and finding his courage all with the help of Mrs. Claus. Probably the character everyone has been waiting for since the surprise appearance at the end of the first film is Goldie Hawn as Mrs. Claus, who turns up on quite the role. She creates this balance for Santa. Plus, the whole village’s elves going nuts was quite a hilarious turn of events in a brutally cute way.

Overall, The Christmas Chronicles 2 is alright. It still has the entertainment level and the tone especially with the comedy and family film is done pretty well. The real selling point is in Kurt Russell as Santa who holds up his role really well while expanding it to a memorable Mrs. Claus by Goldie Hawn. It takes on this message about discovering Christmas spirit and a bit like the story of The Grinch where it doesn’t matter so much about where it is but its in their hearts sort of deal. Not quite as outstanding as the first film but still a fun enough one to enjoy for the holidays.

The Princess Switch: Switched Again (2020)

The Princess Switch: Switched Again (2020)

Director: Mike Rohl

Cast: Vanessa Hudgens, Sam Palladio, Mark Fleischmann, Nick Sagar, Mia Lloyd, Suanne Braun, Lachlan Nieboer, Ricky Norwood, Florence Hall

When Duchess Margaret unexpectedly inherits the throne to Montenaro and hits a rough patch with Kevin, it’s up to her double Stacy to save the day before a new lookalike, party girl Fiona foils their plans. – IMDB

The Princess Switch, while not exactly a fresh idea, was a fun one in its original release. Vanessa Hudgens is rather fun playing two different characters, playing around with accents and different background and identity swaps. Something like a version of It Takes Two for grown-ups. You can read my review of the first film HERE.

When Netflix announced that there was a sequel, it was hard to imagine what direction they would take. It didn’t feel like there was a whole lot of other stories to tell especially seeing as A Christmas Prince had already gone through 2 sequels by last year and each one feeling less and less entertaining. The Princess Switch: Switched Again hits much lower than the original. Its not exactly unexpected but having a third Vanessa Hudgens character, Fiona, a different sort of character of the prior two is still fun enough however, the plot as a whole is lacking. Because of so many Vanessa Hudgens, everyone becomes passing figures. The story falls really flat as this new scheme comes into play, there’s just more pieces that don’t fit together and its not exciting or entertaining to watch. Some of the new characters try to be funny but it all seems to miss a mark. Nothing seems to be out of the expected and just turns into a fairly disappointing sort of ordeal. Of course, like I said before, its not unexpected.

Much like the first film, Vanessa Hudgens holds up the movie and is definitely the highlight here. She plays these three characters with a different style and vibe. Margaret and Stacy both being different while Fiona is a much more outward character and brings a little more sass and silliness especially with her two minions. Adding into the equation a guy that wants to win over Margaret’s affections, it all boils down to a fairly predictable sort of movie and the characters all being rather one-dimensional. Not that anyone is expecting more (at least I hope not). Other than Vanessa Hudgens and some of the characters from the first film, the thing that gives this one a little more points is that it finally ties up the world that Netflix is building between A Christmas Prince and this one as the royal family from there makes a cameo appearance.

Overall, The Princess Switch: Switched Again is a fairly normal movie, nothing that’s unexpected and everything stays rather predictable. The whole three personalities for Vanessa Hudgens just feels like she works really hard. Everything else feels a little more normal like the relationship between Stacy and her prince while Margaret sorting out things with Kevin. In comparison, it seems to give more weight to Margaret’s character this time as its in her kingdom this time. The whole world that Netflix creates for their Christmas stories is pretty neat. As a finishing thought, seeing as I’ve had rather lackluster feelings to both A Christmas Prince 3 and this one, I really don’t know where Netflix plans to take these stories or this world.

TV Binge: Sugar Rush Christmas (Season 2, 2020)

Sugar Rush Christmas (Season 2, 2020)

Host: Hunter March
Judges: Adriano Zumbo, Candace Nelson
Guests: Adam Rippon, Chris Bosh, Valerie Gordon, Sasha Pieterse, Jordin Sparks, Abigail Breslin

Four sets of bakers compete in Christmas themed baking challenges. First round is cupcakes, second round confections, and final round cakes. After each challenge one group is eliminated and the winner of the final challenge gets $10,000. – IMDB

The second season of Sugar Rush Christmas is structured like the first season. At this point, Sugar Rush has pretty much set their structure in a well-polished way. The focus on time shows a lot of its effect when the different teams make decisions on how to balance between execution of their creative designs in the different stage and how detailed it needs to be to see how much time they save. Sometimes, it fails and sometimes it succeeds which usually makes the first part more interesting to watch then the third round of cakes.

Talking about the different rounds, the themes for each episode is similar to the first season. Christmas and holidays are fairly slim pickings playing around with Christmas trees, winter wonderlands, Santa Claus, etc. What did change a little was that certain episodes had some interesting challenges. One of the best ones had to be the White Elephant one which has the different teams picking a secret ingredient that had to be added to their confection. Some of those secret ingredients ended up having some interesting results. As for the cake challenge, one of the fun ones had to be the secret Santa challenge that had them hiding Santa in their cake designs. Aside from that, they sweetened the deal by having the winning team of first and second round also get a little prize and not only have the $10,000 prize for the final winner.

Sugar Rush Christmas is still hosted by Hunter March and judged by Candace Nelson and Adriano Zumbo which definitely have a great dynamic after so many seasons of working together. They all are very fun to watch. The guests this season definitely are people that I enjoy especially Abigail Breslin, Jordin Sparks and Sasha Pieterse. One of the fun ones are Jordin Sparks since it has singing bits and she has an upbeat personality while Sasha Pieterse shows off another side from what I’ve seen from Pretty Little Liars and is very professional in her judging.

Sugar Rush Christmas’s second season isn’t exactly making a lot of big differences but it already had established a good structure so its not needed for a lot of change. It fulfils the need of some fun and entertainment while watching a reality baking competition series. It brings a lot of holiday spirit. Every bit as enjoyable as previous seasons!

Check out the Sugar Rush Christmas Season 1 Review here.

TV Binge: Dash & Lily (Season 1, 2020)

Dash & Lily (Season 1, 2020)

dash & lily

Cast: Austin Abrams, Midori Francis, Dante Brown, Troy Iwata, James Saito, Leah Kreitz, Keana Marie, Glenn McCuen, Agneeta Thacker, Jodi Long, Diego Guevara

A whirlwind holiday romance builds as cynical Dash and optimistic Lily trade dares, dreams and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations all across New York City. – IMDB

Dash & Lily arrives at a suitable time in our current pabdemic landscape. Dash & Lily is a building connection between two young strangers as they exchange dares in a notebook stashed at a local bookstore all in an attempt to bring in some joy during this holidays by Lily whose normal family holidays plans have been thwarted due to a business trip. On the other hand, Dash despises the holidays especially without a girlfriend to smooth the situation between him and his father while fooling both his divorced parents about his wherebouts. The notebooks ends up being a new start as it takes them both to extend out of their circle and learn and try new things. A runaround New York doing all kinds of unique activities and meeting some a variety of people gives both of them a slight change in their original mindset.

Running at a swift 8 episodes, Dash & Lily is based on a book series called Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by David Leviathan and Rachel Cohn (which I haven’t read before). Running very much like Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (based on a book also by David Leviathan), this is a journey through New York. Where it differs that this time, the story is about two separate characters and their own journeys that help them find themselves and find companion in each other and eventually, a stronger connection/romance. Dash and Lily are opposites. Lily sits in her comfort zone and doesn’t really get along with people her own age but remains close to her family and is somewhat of a brighter character where Dash has a more incomplete family and lives with less family guidance but also doesn’t have a friend circle in fear of mentioning his break-up and in turn both needs their own change in view to get back in touch with the space around them. What brings them both together is that this dare notebook turns into something of a tree hole where they can share their thoughts and find their own excitement in life.

As much as Dash and Lily’s characters are pretty fun, the supporting cast pulls in other factors like family and friends. Lily’s family is quite the amusing bunch especially with her grandfather played by James Saito and her great aunt played by Jodi Long, both colorful characters. Lily is also left with her brother who is spending a lot of time with his new boyfriend that makes for some fun moments as they help and encourage her to do the dares and step out of her comfort zone. Dash’s group is more focused on friends with his ex-girlfriend and her group of friends that he meets here and there but mostly his best friend Boomer (Dante Brown) who works at the local pizza place and ends up being a link between Dash and Lily secretly. There was even a little cameo with Nick Jonas which makes for a pretty fun scene.

Overall, Dash & Lily is pretty fun. It doesn’t take place over a long period of time but at the same time, it takes us for an adventures around New York while getting to know these two young characters. There are times and that they seem a little older than they should be but then, the little activities and dares they get sent on are rather unique. This time, its a lot of cutting between the two characters and flipping between them so its less their chemistry together but rather more like friends that builds into more. Its set around Christmas time so there’s a lot of inserts of Christmas themed elements and uses it as a foundation of the difference between the two: one that loves it and one that doesn’t and that’s all rooted from their view about how they view life at that point. Its a fun and bingeworthy Netflix series for sure!

Holidate (2020)

Holidate (2020)

Director: John Whitesell

Cast: Emma Roberts, Luke Bracey, Kristin Chenoweth, Frances Fisher, Andrew Bachelor, Jessica Capshaw, Manish Dayal, Alex Moffat, Cynthy Wu

Fed up with being single on holidays, two strangers agree to be each other’s platonic plus-ones all year long, only to catch real feelings along the way. – IMDB

Netflix earliest Christmas/holiday themed romantic comedy was Holiday, released at the end of October. Bearing the talented Emma Roberts who has done quite a few quirky movies in her filmography, Holidate holds a decent premise revolving around the concept of being single during the holidays and the judging eyes of family and friends for not having someone in their life or simply life choices in general. Entering into a holiday contract plus these two people together. While the premise itself is fairly unique using the holiday angle, the whole concept of contractual relationships and the flow of the romantic comedy offers nothing too refreshing.

Romantic comedies aren’t exactly fresh nowadays and yet for those who like to watch it, a lot dwells on the chemistry between the main leads that at least give a reason to root for them. Here’s where some of the deepest issues do occur in the execution. The holiday premise causes the film to jump through the different holidays almost in montage speed giving them very little character build. The scenes that give these two characters the most backstory is in little pieces at the beginning for set-up before the contract, once or twice in the middle and then at the end, when they inevitably face up to their feelings. They have little moments like hooking up after a drunk rendez-vous or helping each other out of embarrassing situations or whatnot and yet, the connection between them is slightly lacking.

If we look at the comedy parts, that part might be a little more successful depending on what your comedy style is. For myself, some of the comedy does land. Embarrassing moments or some over the top bits are good. However, some of the over the top stuff mostly with Kristen Chenoweth’s character sometimes rides along the fine line between being funny and being too much. However, comedy is very subjective. In the comedy department though, Emma Roberts and Luke Bracey do land those moments fairly well.

With that said, Emma Roberts is a really good actress and with what she’s given here, her role is pretty fun. Holidate as a whole is a fairly lackluster and predictable sort of romantic comedy set up and yet, the premise here is fun. It makes sense that it didn’t go full Christmas movie selection since its more about the holidays than set solely during Christmas. Thing is, Holidate is somewhat of a middling viewing. If you enjoy romantic comedies, this one is okay and you can give it a shot. Its nothing super memorable but it has some fun and awkward moments.

TV Binge: The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020)

The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020)

Creator: Mike Flanagan

Cast: Victoria Pedretti, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Amelia Eve, T’Nia Miller, Rahul Kohli, Tahirah Sharif, Amelie Bea Smith, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, Henry Thomas, Carla Gugino, Alex Essoe, Roby Attal, Kate Siegel, Katie Parker, Martn McCreadie

After an au pair’s tragic death, Henry hires a young American nanny to care for his orphaned niece and nephew who reside at Bly Manor with the chef Owen, groundskeeper Jamie and housekeeper, Mrs. Grose. – IMDB

After the success of The Haunting of Hill House (review), Mike Flanagan helms his next mini- series with another haunted house story called The Haunting of Bly Manor. The Haunting of Bly Manor takes some of the execution style of Hill House but is essentially its own story. After the Hill House experience, its hard to go into this one with a little more alertness and always on the lookout for whats hidden in the background (at least for us, it had that effect for at least a few episodes). Its unfair to compare the two even if there are a similar cast returning from Hill House in mostly supporting roles and being helmed by Flanagan as a creator but less this time as director. In fact, Bly Manor is a different beast in itself with Bly Manor being a new haunted house that comes to life with new characters and backstories and some new ghosts to discover which makes Bly Manor a creepily fun time and its has children so add in a little of the unsettling creepy children element.

Using the same execution of breaking down the episodes to discover the backstory of each of the characters on the past and present is a clever way to do this. In some ways, it gives it this feeling of peeling layers of an onion before every piece fits together and one twist/ secret gets revealed after the next while also getting to know each of the characters more to give them greater connection. Other than that Flanagan takes on the main role of writing which is what gives this piece a lot of style and atmosphere. He only takes the director’s seat for the first episode which sets off the story in a great direction in terms of setting up the proper atmosphere however, even in the hands of other directors, the TV series does still manage to keep a certain atmosphere that is always rather unsettling and creepy but in this one, its definitely more about the mystery and suspense built from what is actually happening.

With that said, the characters are the true star as each of their story comes to life. Victoria Pedretti plays a great role as the American au pair Dani who brings on some change to Bly Manor as she tries to dig into what is causing those abnormal things to happen whether with the children or the inexplicable things she sees or experiences. At the same time, the baggage she carries does brings on a few twists as well. The cook Owen (Rahul Kohli) is also a really fun character especially with some hilarious puns like Al-Cohol You Later (one that we have a lot of fun right now saying randomly). One of the best characters and possibly the one with one of the best episode is for the housekeeper Mrs. Grose (T’Nia Miller) who delivers a hell of a performance. Not to mention the kids deliver some great performances by Amelie Bea Smith and Benjamin Evan Ainsworth as Flora and Miles respectively. Then you have some comeback roles with one or two episodes as some decent characters with Henry Thomas as the uncle, Carla Gugino who is the narrator and Kate Siegel as a key character to the past of Bly Manor to just name a few. There’s a whole lore of how the ghosts and spirits work that becomes a very nice twist.

Bly Manor brings its own setting by itself. The grounds and the manor itself all comes to life with all the stories that slowly comes to surface. The cast brings quite a lot to the story just like the first one as they all have a great deal of depth and its never solely a ghost story but much more than that which is what makes The Haunting of Bly Manor so good. Its something of a love, revenge, family, drama with supernatural elements. There’s some heartwarming moments and some comedy and then there’s a lot of creepiness and fantastic eerie atmosphere at times that’s pretty well balances. Its the not the same as Hill House but different in an equally good way.